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Learning to Draw and Write

Making marks on paper, drawing and writing gives your child the opportunity to express themselves in different ways. If you feel your child is at the stage that they are ready to pick up a crayon or paint brush and make a mark this section will give you ideas to make your activity more fun and successful. Your child may be finding it difficult to press hard enough on the page, finding it challenging to hold the crayon comfortably, not showing much interest or enjoyment in the activity or have difficulty organising their movements.

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What you can do to help

Learning to make marks is the first step towards being able to control a pencil, draw lines and shapes and then learning to write and draw. It’s more enjoyable and will happen more quickly when it is something you do together;

you can make it a special activity. Allow plenty of time for colouring, scribbling and just exploring what happens with movement and colour.

To help your child make marks  encourage them  to have fun with marks everywhere and anywhere and not just sitting down with a paper and pencil. You don’t need to buy specialist equipment, here are some examples:

Drawing Together

Drawing together also known as ‘interactive drawing’ is a great joint activity to do with your child. It helps build confidence and skills, below is an example of drawing a person but you can draw anything that motivates your child from unicorns to trains. You can even colour them in together after.

Learning to Start and Stop

Learning to start and stop is one of the first steps of pencil control. Here is a fun example of how to practice this skill:

Holding a pen / pencil

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Using short and chunky pens / pencils is a good introduction to drawing. You may be wondering how your child should be holding their crayon? There are lots of normal stepping stones to holding a pencil. Initially your child may use both hands. If you think your child is ready try passing the crayon to your child in a way that helps them hold the crayon like ‘picture C and D ‘ and see if they are comfortable with this. If they are not ready don’t worry they just need more time.

Different OT grasps

Children who are left handed may adopt slightly different grasps.

Here are the stages of drawing development you might observe in your child.

  1. Picks up a crayon and scribbles
  2. Picks up a crayon and makes lines and circular scribbles
  3. Imitates (adult showing) a vertical line
  4. Imitates (adult showing)a horizontal line
  5. Imitates (adult showing)a circular action
  6. Starts and stops a vertical line between dots or on a ‘train track’
  7. Starts and stops a horizontal line between dots or on a ‘ladder’
  8. Places circles on a face for eyes and nose
  9. Colours in shapes trying to keep inside the lines.

Once your child can draw vertical lines, horizontal lines and circles they are then ready to try putting two lines together and drawing diagonals.  

Diagonal lines 

Diagonal lines can be particularly challenging and may require lots of teaching and practise.

Children will be able to see that a line is on an angle and be able to trace over it long before they can draw a diagonal line. The skills are not the same so tracing helps to learn about shapes but your child will only learn how to draw a diagonal line when they do it without tracing. 

Click each statement below for more ideas and information.

Learning about diagonal shapes

Tracing over, colouring and folding paper are all ways to learn about diagonals. Trying to spot diagonals when you go out and about can be fun (e.g. on road signs or house roofs). You can try using different materials to make pictures such as spaghetti, straws and sticks in pictures. Rolling objects down and talking about different angled slopes (wood/card/plastic) is another fun activity.

Here are some ideas of where to find diagonals:

  • Flags
  • Calendars
  • The Sun
  • Arrow games
  • Letters N,M,W,V,X,Y,,Z,K,

How we can help

We hope this information will provide you with ideas to break each area of the activity into achievable steps.

If your child continues to have difficulties, please call us on 01223 218065 or ask your child's school, nursery or health professional to complete a referral form and send it to us.

For professionals: Referral forms can be found on the contact us page

Need More Information?

  • The National handwriting Association has lots of useful information and resources for home and school. Click here to find out more.
  •  Click here for useful resources for teaching  handwriting and activities to support the development of writing for teachers and parents.
  • Click here for great art ideas – for school age children.
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